“Mike!” Johan whispered anxiously,” Look out!” As I turned around I saw a big brown bear standing on the beach only 20 metres away, between us and our canoe, intensely sniffing and staring at us. It was one of the most beautiful bears I’ve ever seen. His fur was radiant in the sun, his rams were grey from age and he seemed startled by our presence. At that moment I had no idea whether it was the same bear I had shoot at from the canoe ten minutes earlier or whether it was another one.
The first bear had fallen over, having been hit at least three times in the area below his left shoulder and before I had time to reload, he slowly crawled into the thick taiga. This one, however, took a step forward, stopped again and stood up on his hind legs, sniffing even more eagerly. I took a quick look at my young partner Johan and I suddenly realised that he was unarmed.
The Russian authorities had allowed us to bring one rifle only and at that moment I remembered the words of my wife Titti before setting out on the Expedition: “Don’t ever forget that you have the same responsibility as any parent regarding Johan. It is better you die if things come to that.” “Maybe you should have a go”, I said calmly to Johan and handed him the rifle as I took a step down from the steep bank and out of the thick forest. My appearance startled the bear initially, but suddenly the giant charged off up the steep slope, turned around facing us and came at us with determination. “Whatever you do, don’t miss”, I told Johan quietly as he raised the rifle. The bear suddenly stopped 10 metres away from us and stood up on his hind legs again. Johan shot the bear in the stomach; the giant fell backward, rolled down the bank and straight into the fast current of the river. Stunned, we watched the bear being swept away. We had killed for nothing and I felt more miserable than ever before. And painfully hungry.
Our expedition down the Kolyma River, located in the far north-eastern part of Siberia, was only one month old, it was the end of August and we were already on the verge of starvation. “We better stay sharp and focused” I advised Johan with an exhausted voice whilst he reloaded, “we still don’t know if it’s another bear around. If it is, it’s badly injured and therefore very dangerous.”
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